Power. Courage. Determination. UAPB
Good Friday was great Friday for HBCU Trek. On this day, HBCU Trek collaborated with the STAX Music Academy Community Engagement Specialist to explore each of the historically Black colleges in the state of Arkansas. First on the list was the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Pine Bluff is located south of Little Rock in a remote area of the state. UAPB borders Pine Bluff Lake which is next to the Arkansas River and adds to the unique scenery of the campus.
Arkansas Pine Bluff, as explained to us by the office of admissions and our two student tour guides, was second higher education institution established in the state of Arkansas. UAPB opened as Branch Normal College, the Black campus, of Arkansas Industrial University and was tasked with educating teachers for the state’s African American population. Because the institution received funding from the federal Morrill Land Grant, the school’s mission expanded to providing agriculture, mechanical arts (engineering), and normal (teacher) education; subsequently, the institution changed its name to Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College. Over its history, UAPB has had an on and off relationship with the University of Arkansas, most recently rejoining the UA system in the early 1970s.
The campus of UAPB is adorned with both historic landmarks and new structures. At the center of the campus stands the William Edward O’Bryant Bell Tower: the very same tower featured in the university’s logo and seal. According to our tour guide, UAPB students take pictures in front of the Bell Tower for graduation invitations, postcards, publicizing student organizations’ events, and even for social media profile pictures. In addition to the historic landmark, the university features a couple of unique, must see sites: the golden lion, the first floor of the Watson Memorial Library, and the UAPB museum.
As the mascot of UAPB, lion pictures, statutes, and figurines are prominent around campus. The most famous of the lions, however, is the Golden Lion posted in front of the library. The detail put into the lion’s frame and musculature is uncanny, coupled with the golden coat that shines…glows in the heart of the yard.
The John Brown Watson Memorial Library. I loved it. The feeling and look of the library upon opening the door was breathtaking. Once Fredrick Douglass looked me square in the eye, I felt imbued with scholastic abilities and a responsibility to use my knowledge to further empower a people. After seeing that Golden Lion in front of the building, the bust of Sir Fredrick Douglass was almost too much to handle–so inspiring. If I went to school at UAPB, I would definitely frequent the library.
Finally, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Museum is a treasure. I have visited over 45 Black college campuses on this HBCU Trek, yet this is the first institutional history museum I have seen so institutionalized and highly developed. To have an entire two-story building dedicated to the history, heritage, and legacy of the host institution is a testament to the love and care UAPB students, administration, and alumni have for their school. As a researcher, this is a dream find, a scholastic wonderland, an academic smorgasbord; as a HBCU enthusiast, the museum was 7 generations of Black college experience documented, packaged, and put on display for immediate and continual appreciation.
We ended our tour by visiting one of the newest faculty members on campus, Joy Jackson, Ph.D. Professor Jackson is a native of Pine Bluff, an alumna of UAPB, and currently teaches in the Biology department for the university. Professor Jackson took us out to a local eatery, Rich’s, and told us about the differences she has experienced between student life and life as a professional academic at UAPB. Speaking with the tour guides, admissions staff, students walking around campus, and Professor Jackson, I have determined that at UAPB a) it is Live being a Lion, b) a familial atmosphere is fostered 24/7, and c) heritage matters.
Power. Courage. Determination. UAPB